Manteo Middle School and First Flight Middle School were able to learn a great deal about rain gardens this past week thanks to Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator at the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Wanchese office, Reilly Kelly, AmeriCorps member, and a grant from the Community Foundation.
Six classes of seventh-grade Manteo Middle School students monitored areas of the school’s large rain garden and collected data similar to how the federation monitors living shorelines. In addition to monitoring the percent covered by plants, they also counted species, measured plant height and circumferences and identified several of the plants in the garden. During this week-long lesson, students were able to learn the value of making close observations and began to understand how important the area is for wildlife such as birds, bunnies and insects.
In the fall, eight classes of sixth-grade students at First Flight Middle School were assigned plants to identify and made observations of their onsite rain garden, which the federation helped install. They returned again this past week to make new “spring” observations and compare differences. Most of the students noticed how green and fully grown the trees and shrubs were compared to their previous visit. They noticed seasonal plants blooming, like the Lanceleaf Coreopsis. They also noted the purple mulhy grasses and narrowleaf sunflowers bloomed in the fall, but not in the spring. Purple martins had returned to their birdhouse in the garden and the students were thrilled to see the birds coming and going to build their nests. The students of First Flight Middle School helped with some of the garden’s maintenance as well, pulling weeds and spreading mulch.
These lessons were the last in two year-long programs that taught sixth-to-eighth-grade students about the challenges of stormwater runoff as well as living shorelines, oysters and marine debris.
Check out more photos from the students’ experiences below: